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Portland Water Bureau

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1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97204

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Have You Tested Your Home’s Plumbing for Lead?

By Lindsay Wochnick

Does your home plumbing contain lead?

If your home was built between 1970 and 1985, lead solder may have been used to join the pipes. Lead can also be found in brass plumbing fixtures and components. Lead is a major health threat to children and pregnant women, and a lead-in-water test is the only way to know if your plumbing is adding lead to the water.

The Portland Water Bureau provides FREE lead-in-water test kits to all of our customers. Order yours from the LeadLine either online or by calling 503-988-4000.

What is the Portland Water Bureau doing?

In Portland, the primary source of exposure to lead is from lead-based paint and dust. However, lead may be present in tap water, especially in homes built between 1970 and 1985. The main source of lead in water in the Portland area is household plumbing. Lead is rarely found in regular testing from the Bull Run Watershed. There are also no known lead water mains or service lines in the drinking water distribution system.  To reduce the amount of lead that enters the water from home plumbing, the Water Bureau adjusts the pH of the water, which can reduce the presence of lead in tap water by more than half.

What can you do?

Follow some easy steps to avoid possible exposure to lead from plumbing, including:

  • Avoid using water that has been standing in your household pipes for cooking, drinking, and making baby formula. When a faucet is not used for several hours, run the cold water tap until the water feels noticeably colder (about 30 seconds to 2 minutes), which brings in fresh water from the distribution mains. 
  • Consider using a filter: Check whether it removes lead. Not all filters do.
  • Consider buying low-lead fixtures. As of January, 2014 all pipes, fittings and fixtures are required to contain less than 0.25% lead. When buying new fixtures, consumers should seek out those with the lowest lead content.

To learn more about all lead hazards, order a FREE lead-in-water test kit, find locations for FREE blood lead level screening for children, or learn more about other lead poisoning prevention resources in the Portland area, contact the Multnomah County Health Department LeadLine at 503-988-4000 or www.leadline.org

Sarah Messier
Water Quality Information

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